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UPDATE: 28-year-old woman killed after ledge collapse in Yoho National Park

“The first person in line was shot when the ledge collapsed and ended up falling about 300 yards,” said Brian Webster, visitor safety officer for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. .

YOHO NATIONAL PARK – A 28-year-old woman was carried 300 meters up a steep mountain to her death after a ledge collapsed on Mount Poulis in Yoho National Park last week.

The fatal incident occurred when a group of five people were climbing a ridge near the summit of Mont des Poilus, culminating at 3,166 meters, mid-morning Wednesday April 13.

One person, the 28-year-old woman from Cochrane, was ahead of the group when a ledge, estimated to be 60 to 80 meters wide, collapsed and triggered a Class 3 avalanche on the steep face below.

Earlier reports from Avalanche Canada said the woman was partially buried in the avalanche, but Parks Canada officials say that was not the case.

“The first person in line was shot when the ledge collapsed and ended up falling about 300 yards,” said Brian Webster, visitor safety officer for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks. .

“The ledge triggered an avalanche, but the person was not buried and died from trauma from the fall.”

Parks Canada was alerted to the backcountry incident at approximately 11:42 a.m. on April 13 by an InReach SOS activation.

Four Visitor Safety Specialists responded quickly and found the woman at the bottom of the hill above the avalanche debris.

“Right off the bat we had pretty good communication with the party, so we knew what we were getting into,” Webster said.

The group of five skiers, who were based at Guy Hut at the Wapta Icefield, were on a day trip to Mont des Poulis, located about 35 kilometers northwest of Lake Louise, when tragedy struck.

The nature of this ski climb involves skiing for most of the climb, but closer to the top people are usually forced to take their skis off and hike the last part of the ridge to the Mountain peak.

“They were climbing up the ridge when a ledge collapsed,” Webster said.

The skiers were well equipped, including avalanche equipment, a satellite communication device and a radio.

“They were able to call for help almost immediately and then took action to try to get as much information as possible to possibly perform a self-rescue,” Webster said.

“They tied someone to a rope and had someone look over the edge to see what they could see and then they were ready to descend to the site via their ascent route and research,” he added.

“They were able to call us and we arrived before they came down the mountain. So we recovered, then helped out the rest of the party and took them back to the trailhead.”

BC RCMP have confirmed the woman is 28 years old from Cochrane.

“The British Columbia Coroners Service is continuing to investigate,” said Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet, senior media relations officer for the RCMP in British Columbia.

Webster said the incident highlights the risk ledges can pose when traveling in the mountains, especially in the spring when they are tall and warm temperatures can make them more susceptible to collapse.

“Parties should be especially careful approaching ridgelines where ledges are present,” he said. “It’s often difficult to determine exactly where the ledge begins, and giving them a wide berth is the best approach.”

Parks Canada reminds people that anyone traveling in the backcountry is responsible for their own safety and urges them to wear a beacon, shovel and probe and check avalanche forecasts on before heading out. Those looking for technical information on Advanced Alpine Plans can call the Banff National Park dispatcher at 403-762-1470 and ask to speak with a Visitor Safety Specialist.

In this particular incident last week, Webster said the group was well prepared.

“They not only had avalanche safety equipment, they had a communication device, they had the ability to save themselves, and they were very calm and collected,” he said.

“They were totally prepared for the goal they were aiming for.”

Meanwhile, avalanches are classified into five size classes as a general indication of their destructive potential, with the Mont des Poulis avalanche being size 3, meaning it can bury and destroy a car, damage a truck, destroy a small building or break. a few trees.

On a sliding scale, size one is considered relatively harmless to people and size five are the largest known snow avalanches, with the potential to destroy a village or forest area of ​​up to 40 hectares.

As of Tuesday, April 19, avalanche danger in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks was rated moderate in the alpine and low at treeline and below treeline. The forecast for Wednesday was the same.

“Tuesday’s new snow will improve the quality of skiing, but expect more wind slabs in the alpine over the next few days,” according to Parks Canada’s avalanche bulletin.